Degree of Influence
The campaigns and theaters of war that were fought on the periphery of the Great War had moderate influence on its outcome. As a matter of degree, these campaigns had indirect influence; on the Western Front of Europe as the most essential case in point. The fighting throughout Germany’s colonies in Africa: Togoland, Kamerun, South West Africa, and German East Africa, drained German naval and military forces in 1914 and into 1915 that could have been deployed in Western Europe (France).
Influence of the Peripheral Campaigns
It is important to note when discussing the peripheral campaigns’ potential to influence the overall outcome of the war that the belligerents in these theaters had the same effect of the “separation of forces” – a known strategic and tactical mistake. Germany’s global dilution of her forces in this Great War was a lesson not learned by the Third Reich just twenty-one years later. As noted in the lecture’s text, Italy was able to tie-down Austria, as France and England found themselves mired in the Balkans…. Could these French forces have affected the balance of battle back home? – Probably. Might Austria have been better served helping her ally Germany in the West as opposed to historically inept Italian forces? – Maybe so.
Benefactors and Sufferers
It would be easy to suggest that the winners, the Entente in the West, benefitted from these peripheral campaigns; and, the losers, the Central Powers did not – but that would overlook important details and facts. Russia’s February Revolution of 1917 redrew their leadership which later created the Soviet Union. The Ottoman Empire ceased to exist following the end of the war. By 1917, the three previous years of war that had driven Russia to its revolution led France to mutiny. A tragedy of the Great War is that the winners as well as the losers suffered and lost in extraordinary ways – in the peripheral campaigns and primary theaters. The US, entering late in the war tipped the balance in favor of the western Entente – possibly being seen as a benefactor of these campaigns.
The failed economies of the belligerents are second only to the enormous loss of life as a byproduct of these peripheral campaigns. G.J. Meyer in A World Undone: The Story of the Great War 1914 to 1918, speaks to the economic effects of the Great War, and peripheral combatants: “Their military situation was far grimmer than it had been a year earlier: the Austro-Hungarian armies broken beyond hope of repair, the Germans exhausted by Verdun and the Somme and the scramble to cope with the Brusilov offensive, and the Ottoman Empire unraveling north and south. On the home front things were even worse. Germany and Austria alike were beginning to die from within, their cities sinking into want and despair, their children literally starving.” For many, Total War destroyed totally.
- Hew Strachan, The Oxford Illustrated History of the First World War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998) 92.
- David Stevenson, Cataclysm: The First World War as Political Tragedy (New York: Basic Books, 2005) 303.
- G.J. Meyer, A World Undone: The Story of the Great War 1914 to 1918 (New York: Bantam Dell, 2007) 473.
Meyer, G.J. A World Undone: The Story of the Great War 1914 to 1918. New York: Bantam Dell, 2007.
Stevenson, David. Cataclysm: The First World War as Political Tragedy. New York: Basic Books, 2005.
Strachan, Hew. The Oxford Illustrated History of the First World War. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.